Calamari with pesto is a delightful dish that combines the tender texture of calamari with the vibrant flavors of homemade pesto sauce. This recipe offers a perfect balance of flavors and textures, making it a fantastic appetizer or main course. Here’s how to prepare this mouthwatering Calamari with pesto dish:

Ingredients:

For the Calamari:

  • 1 pound fresh calamari, cleaned and sliced into rings
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Garnish:

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Lemon wedges

Instructions:

1. Prepare the Pesto Sauce:

a. Toast the Nuts: Begin by toasting the pine nuts or walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they turn lightly golden and fragrant. Ensure they don’t burn, and then set them aside to cool.

b. Blend the Pesto: In a food processor, combine the basil leaves, toasted nuts, garlic cloves, and Parmesan cheese. Pulse the ingredients until coarsely chopped.

c. Add Olive Oil: While the food processor is running, gradually pour in the olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto reaches a smooth and well-combined consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the pesto aside.

2. Prepare the Calamari:

a. Clean and Slice: Ensure the calamari is properly cleaned and sliced into rings. Pat the rings dry using paper towels to remove excess moisture.

b. Season the Flour: In a shallow dish, mix the all-purpose flour, paprika, salt, and pepper.

c. Coat the Calamari: Heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Dredge the calamari rings in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.

d. Fry the Calamari: Carefully place the coated calamari rings into the hot oil, ensuring they’re not overcrowded. Fry in batches for approximately 2-3 minutes until they turn golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.

3. Assemble and Serve:

a. Plate the Calamari: Arrange the fried calamari on a serving platter or individual plates.

b. Drizzle with Pesto: Spoon the prepared pesto sauce over the fried calamari, ensuring an even coating.

c. Garnish and Serve: Optionally, garnish the dish with fresh basil leaves and serve with lemon wedges on the side for an added zesty touch.

4. Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve the calamari with pesto immediately while it’s still warm for the best taste and texture.
  • This dish pairs well with a side salad, roasted vegetables, or a crusty baguette to soak up the flavorful pesto sauce.

Enjoy this delectable calamari with pesto dish as an appetizer for gatherings or as a flavorful main course. The combination of crispy calamari and aromatic pesto is sure to delight your taste buds!

Why should you try this recipe

1. Exceptional Flavor Combination: The marriage of tender calamari and vibrant, herbaceous pesto creates a burst of flavors in every bite. The crispy texture of the fried calamari pairs perfectly with the freshness of the homemade pesto, offering a delightful contrast that tantalizes the taste buds.

2. Simple and Approachable Preparation: Despite its gourmet appeal, this recipe is relatively straightforward to make. The steps involved in cleaning the calamari, coating it in seasoned flour, and frying it to golden perfection are uncomplicated. The homemade pesto sauce, made with fresh basil, nuts, and cheese, is easily blended together, allowing for a hassle-free cooking experience.

3. Versatile Dish for Various Occasions: Whether you’re hosting a dinner party, looking for an impressive appetizer, or seeking a flavorful main course, calamari with pesto fits the bill. This dish serves as an excellent appetizer for gatherings or a satisfying main dish when paired with complementary sides like salads or roasted vegetables.

4. Customizable and Adaptable: This recipe offers room for personalization. Adjust the seasoning of the flour coating or experiment with different herbs and nuts in the pesto sauce to suit your taste preferences. Additionally, you can choose to pan-fry or bake the calamari for a healthier alternative without compromising on taste.

5. Health Benefits of Calamari and Pesto: Calamari is a low-calorie, high-protein seafood option rich in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Meanwhile, the basil in pesto is packed with antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. Additionally, the nuts in pesto provide healthy fats and protein, contributing to a nutritious meal.

6. Impressively Appetizing Presentation: The visually appealing combination of golden-brown calamari adorned with vibrant green pesto sauce makes for an eye-catching presentation on any dining table. The optional garnishes of fresh basil leaves and lemon wedges add a finishing touch to elevate the dish’s aesthetic appeal.

7. Culinary Adventure and Exploration: Trying out new recipes like calamari with pesto introduces you to different flavors and cooking techniques, expanding your culinary skills and palate. It allows you to experiment with ingredients and discover unique taste sensations.

FAQs

1. Can I use frozen calamari instead of fresh?

  • Yes, frozen calamari can be used as a substitute for fresh calamari in this recipe. Ensure it is properly thawed and pat dry before slicing and proceeding with the coating and frying steps.

2. Can I make the pesto sauce in advance?

  • Absolutely! The pesto sauce can be prepared ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. However, for the freshest flavor, it’s best to use it within a day or two.

3. Are there alternatives to frying the calamari?

  • Yes, if you prefer a healthier cooking method, you can opt to bake the calamari. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), place the coated calamari on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through until golden and crispy.

4. Can I substitute ingredients in the pesto sauce?

  • Absolutely! Pesto is quite versatile. While basil is traditional, you can experiment with other herbs like parsley, cilantro, or a mix of greens. Additionally, try swapping pine nuts with almonds, walnuts, or even pistachios for a unique flavor twist.

5. How do I ensure the calamari stays crispy?

  • To maintain the crispiness of the fried calamari, it’s crucial to drain excess oil properly after frying. Place the fried calamari on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any extra oil. Serve immediately after topping with pesto to retain its crunchiness. Avoid covering the calamari with a lid or wrapping it, as it can cause it to become soggy.

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